Review by Aaron v. Cicourel - New Rules of Sociological Method a Positive Critique of Interpretative Sociologies. by Anthony Giddens

August 2, 2017 | Author: mahcimoi | Category: Sociology, Sociological Theories, Western Philosophy, Contemporary Philosophy, Epistemology
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New Rules of Sociological Method: A Positive Critique of Interpretative Sociologies. by Anthony Giddens Review by: Aaron V. Cicourel Contemporary Sociology, Vol. 6, No. 5 (Sep., 1977), pp. 533-535 Published by: American Sociological Association Stable URL: . Accessed: 10/10/2014 04:22 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at .

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problemwithAlford'stheoreticalapproach. In his finalchapterAlfordsketchesout the He cannotclarify theroleof voluntary hospi- beginningsof an alternativeperspective,a perspective."Once talsbecausehe does notspellouttheobjective "class or institutional hisuncertainty forceswhichconstrain socio-economic them; againAlford'sanalysisreflects and an unwillingness terrain he cannotexplicatetheunderlying realitybe- ofthetheoretical methodological hindthestrategies of interest groupsbecause tochoosebetweentwodistinct change,he without The dynamics hisperspective is not orientations. on thehealthcaresystem to the"dominanceof rootedin a theoryof society.Caughtbetween argues,can be attributed pluralism and Marxism,withno unifying per- theprivatesectorandtheuppermiddleclass" spective for assimilatingdiscrete social (p.254). Classes, however,remainessentially betweenconto thepowerstruggle phenomena into a coherent theoretical spectators It is nottherelainterests. Alfordderiveshis categoriesof tendingstructural framework, professional monopolyand corporateration- tionshipbetweenclasses that will generate and changebutthedeus ex ofa chaotic politicalstruggle alizationfromtheempirical reality and political to machinaof a "social movement medicalcaresystem.Thenlaterhe attempts whichis notyetvisible"(p.266).An extendthis ad hoc analysisto societyas a leadership perspective,on the otherhand, whole: "the processesand forcesI have de- institutional of the (and Alfordhas separatedthemin his more scribedare endemicto the structure societyand politicalsystemas a whole and recentwork)mustsurelytakeintoaccountthe the role of the state.But the stateis a shadowy mustbe understood atthatlevel,notwithin or thepar- entityin Health Care Politics, with littleauinstitution contextof a particular ticularinterestsof doctors and hospitals" tonomy.It is not "an independentpower remainsuncon- standingabove and beyond the competing (pp.261-262).The contention coalichanging groups,butrepresents from interest becausethelawsforgeneralizing vincing theparticular are neverclearlyenunciated. tionsof elementsdrawnfromvariousstrucigIt is therefore not surprising thatAlfordis turalinterests"(p.251). Alfordtherefore source about the potentialforchangein noreswhatis perhapsthefundamental pessimistic inthehealthcaresector-the struggle thehealthcare sector.Thereis no theoretical offuture bythestatein modesofintervention basis forsuch a hope. All policiesand pro- changing gramsto reform themedicalcaresysteminthe healthcare. last twentyyearslead to the same stalemate Health Care Politics has exposed thefailures createdby thecontending structural interests. of the pluralistapproachto the politicsof "Contradictions" aboundin Alford'sanalysis health care and it should encourage ofthe to pursuean understanding buttheylead nowhere.Some, likethe "con- sociologists tradiction" betweentheinterests ofcorporate healthcare sectoras a whole.Alfordpromises withan elaborarationalizersand professionalmonopolists, to broadenthatunderstanding couldbe morefruitfully as con- tionof his class perspectiveintoa theoryof conceptualized in a forthcoming relationships flicting pressuresand demands.Others,such state-society as the "contradiction" betweentheexpecta- workon politicalsociology.Thisis an imporstep whichmaytake us betionsof consumersforqualitycare and the tanttransitional inability of theprivatesectorto provideitfor yonddynamicswithoutchangeto an analysis everyone(p.255)or betweenthecharacterof of the healthcare crisis as partof the broader healthcare technology and theprivateappro- fiscalcrisisof thestatein latecapitalism. priationof power and resources(p.251) apintheMarxist proachtheidea ofcontradiction sense-the tendencyinherentto a specific modeof production to destroytheconditions New Rules of Sociological Method: A Positive Critique of InterpretativeSociologies, by on whichit dependsforsurvival.But in AlANTHONYGIDDENS. New York: Basic ford'sanalysisconflict and contradiction only 1976.192pp. $10.95cloth. Books, reaffirm stasis.He offers no historical perspectiveon thehealthcare systemand no account AARONV. CICOUREL of therelationship betweenthe healthsector Universityof California,San Diego and broaderdevelopments in the American economy.We are leftwithno sense of what in the presentmight The book underreviewis a sympathetic specificcontradictions Alford'smethod critiqueandevaluationofsociologicaltheories generate changeinthefuture. action,""action dictateshis conclusion-temporary historical concernedwith"meaningful by conductorderedreflexively conditions becomepermanent structural attri- as rationalized humanagents,"andofthewaylanguagehelps butes.

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tomakemeaningful actionpossible.Thenotion 52-53) fromtheinterpretive sociologieswhile ofself-reflection as mediated is an criticizing linguistically theauthorscitedforfailingto deal organizing themeof thebook. The titlerefers withactionas praxisinsteadof onlywithacto "method"in thetradition of Europeanso- tionas meaning. view He faultstheinterpretive cial philosophers, notin thesense of how re- fornotrecognizing thecentralrolethatpower searchis donein a substantive, empirical con- occupiesin sociallife,forfailingto recognize text. thatsocialnormsor rulescan be differentially The introductory chapterrevealsGiddens's interpreted, andfinally he sees a failureto adsympathies forkey aspectsof whathe calls dressproblemsof institutional transformation "interpretive sociologies,"particularly ideas and history. carrysome All ofthesecriticisms associated with Schutz and Garfinkel.For truth. Oneproblem hereis theselectivereview of of theliterature example,Giddensdescribestheproduction conductedby Giddens.This thatde- selectivity societyas "a skilledperformance" issues, leadshimtoignoreempirical pendson theencounters oractivities ofhuman particularly as theyderivefromdifferences beingsactingas practicaltheorists. Members withinwhatis calledethnomethodology. of a groupare said to utilizetheirpractical The themeoflanguageandunderstanding is resourcesor "mutualknowledge"to generate pursued when addressing authors like social interaction, and thisknowledgeis also Gadamer,Apel,and Habermas.The issuesof routinely sharedand used by social scientists "livingin" a language,meanings-in-context, forunderstanding theirown activitiesand the and ordinarylanguage,are presumedto be whomtheystudy.Reflex- relevant activities ofmembers to a to howtheseideascan contribute ive understanding and the social contextof studyofinstitutional structures. Issueslikethe languageas a sign-system thatmediatespracti- domination of men and womenand the procal sociallifeare also discussedbriefly in the gressof humanself-understanding are tiedto introduction, Theseideasareincorporated into the role of languagein everydaylifeand the the "new rules" in the closingpages of the problemof meanings-in-context. book. In chaptertwothereis a discussionofaction In chapter oneGiddensagainemphasizes the or agencyand itsrelationto intention, therehe discusses flexivemonitoring pointthattheschoolsof thought of conductthatleads to are all concernedwith"problemsof language somekindofprincipled accountof completed and meaningin relationto the 'interpretiveaction,and the separationof meaningin inunderstanding' of humanaction" (p.23). He teraction frommeaningin non-communicative liststhreesuchschools:"hermeneutic philos- acts. The personor actingselfis seen as the ophy,""ordinary languagephilosophy"com- basis foran analysisof action.Much of this bined with the later Wittgenstein,and chapter deals with theoreticalissues that "phenomenology." is viewed straddlephilosophy Phenomenology and sociology.Here Gidas havingactedas a broker betweenhermeneu- dens strikesout on his own to defineand extic philosophy and ordinary languagephilos- plain some basic conceptsthathe feels are I am not foundational ophy and the later Wittgenstein. elementsof sociologicaltheory. to establishthis The issues raised in chapterone are again aware of workby Garfinkel linkas claimedby Giddens,butothersassoci- foundin chaptertwowhenhe discusseshow and proatedwiththetermethnomethodology haveat- "lay actors"participate in,monitor, to connectideasfromSchutzto ideas duce sociallife.He continuesthislineof distempted in Austinand Wittgenstein. to the role of commoncussionby reference and how social scienIn chapterone Giddensprovidesthereader sense understandings, of Schutz'swritings,tists'studiesofsuchactivities witha usefuldescription canbecomepart beingresearched. andthendiscussesseveralissuesfrom thewrit- of thesubject-matter In chapterthreelimitations in theworkof ingsofWinchandGarfinkel. He challenges the indifference of ethnomethodology to sociol- Durkheimand Parsonsare discussedbriefly. as an alternative to Durkis examined ogy, notinghow theyboth clearlyshare an Marxism interestin thesame issues. Thereis a useful heimand Parsons.But we are thenbrought theme;thereflexof problemsassociatedwiththe backtowhatis nowa familiar description by humansof theirplace in term"indexicalexpressions,"butGiddensis ive monitoring andhowthisis madepossinotveryclearwhentalkingabouttheregress theirenvironment, problem.His discussionoftheregressproblem blebylanguage.He useslanguageas a convenof somecentralfeatures suffers froma relianceon thenarrowviewsof ientwayto exemplify of Hindessandan inadequateappreciation ofvar- sociallife.Thekeyaspectsoftheproduction ious empiricalstudiesignoredby thisbook. interactionare describedas its negotiated as a its constitution Giddensembracesmanykeyconcepts(pp. meaningful constitution,

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moralorder,and how relationsof powerare pragmaticsand information processing,and established. Poweris viewedas a generalfea- virtuallyignoresthe important workof antureof social interaction, linguistsand the ethnographic wherebyactorscan thropological alterthe courseof a seriesof eventsby the semanticists. (Thereis onereference toa paper resourcesor facilities theycan mobilizein the by Hymes.) The referencesto linguistsand pursuitof practicalactivities. aresparseandnotalwaysrelepsycholinguists In his concluding remarksGiddensoutlines vantto his generaltheme,whilemanyworks his "new rules." They includethe idea of a thatare quite relevantto his thesisare not sociologyconcernedwitha social worldpro- cited.He does notcovertheempirical works ducedby "theactivedoingsofsubjects."The associatedwiththe termethnomethodology, skilledactivities ofmembers areseenas neces- andignoresmanyimportant differences within saryto produceand reproducesociety.Social thisarea thatgo beyondtheabstracttheoretiactorsare alwayshistorically boundedin pur- cal issueshe discusses.Finally,thearguments between of thebook are statedtoo abstractly suingaction,butwe mustdistinguish to have intentional actionandbehavior thatcanbe seenas much impact on most empirically-minded a setof "occurrences."Structure is seenboth Americansociologists. as constraining and as enablingconditions. But despitethe drawbacksI thinkit is a action and structurevaluablebook. It providesus witha sympaIdeas about intentional termsin socialsci- theticbutdetachedviewof issuesthatshould presupposethreeprimitive ence: meanings, intomainstream norms,andpower.The study be incorporated theory. ofsocialliferequiresobserversto makeuse of theirownknowledge as members whena topic is chosenforinvestigation. Researchersmust THOMAS F. GIERYN be participants to generatetheirsociological buttheydo nothaveto "go characterizations, ColumbiaUniversity native"to do successfulresearch.Finally,a "double hermeneutic"governssociological TheNewYorkReviewofBooks is formany world.So conceptsin thaton theone handtheoretical scholarstheVogueoftheintellectual schemesin all of the sciencesare like self- itis thattheNobelLaureateinMedicine,P. B. containedconcepts,and are also a formof Medawar,soughtitspages to paradethecurpracticalactivity.But theseschemesmustbe rentlyfashionablesins of sociologists.Social itis said,chaseafterchimerical understood"fromwithin."In sociologythe scientists, imstudyof social life occurs withinframesof ages of naturalscience,believingthatprecise is intrinsically andinterpretation praiseworthy, that meaning generated bythose measurement oc- factsare priorto beliefs,and thatcomputer beingstudiedsuch thata reinterpretation cursthatmediatesbetweenordinary andtech- processed statisticalformulasprovide the Never mind nicallanguage.Sociologistsmustuse metalan- shortestrouteto understanding. naturalscientists who have not guagesof social science to follow"the her- thepracticing meneuticexplicationand mediation"of di- relegatedsuchideas to thebargainbasement, verse formsof life,and theymustsee "the andnevermindthesocialscientists whonever and reproduction of society"as a eventriedthemon. Fashionabletastesinintelproduction lectualdebateshavean objectiveforceno mathumanaccomplishment. Thereare severalaspectsofthisbookthatI terhowpoorlytheyfittherealityofthecase, like. Giddensis not afraidto tacklecomplex and Medawaris notalone in thisview. theoretical issues thatmanyothershave deAnthonyGiddensis decidedlyau courant. scribedinadequately. He revealsa strong grasp This latestbook in his serieson sociological oftheoretical issuesthathavenotprovenvery theorybeginswithan echo of Medawar'sintheorists. dictment.Sociology,it seems, suffersfrom popularwith othercontemporary The abstractthemehe proposesbetweenlan- cognitivelag: sets of ideas become popular andtheproduction andthe here even as theybecome obsoletein other guageandmeanings ofsocietyis one thatI believeis intellectual reproduction domains.If positivismno longer centralto sociology.However,I do notbelieve describesnaturalscience, we are told that arestillworking he has alwaysdone his homework in tracing sociologists awayinoftentacit out theimplications of thisthesis.He failsto accord withits principles.If phenomenology as Giddens discussthesymbolic interactionists, exceptfor hasbegunitseclipseinphilosophy, a fewpassingremarks aboutGoffman's work. suggests,moresociologistsfindit congenial. He does notrealizehowimportant theworkof Happily,Giddensdoes notstopwithmechanSearle and Gricehas been forcontemporaryical recitation of theview thatsociologyis a he providesa fresh linguistsand psychologistsconcernedwith collectiveanachronism:

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